Op-Ed: The new normal
Newspaper headlines and radio and TV news reports have become a definitive recipe for depression. As a matter of fact, I can’t watch the evening news unless I want to guarantee my usual insomnia. Furthermore, these articles and stories have made me realize that Puerto Rico has become “bizarre” country, an unforgiving “La-laland.”
It looks as if democracy is a thing of the past, as if Abraham Lincoln’s famous words when speaking about the subject: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth” somehow excluded the island. All the hopes and dreams of the majority of our population — some even against their political beliefs — bet on a new administration that was savvy in telling us what we wanted to hear.
Oh, but what a rude awakening! With their best smiles, well polished and emotionally distant, government officials state that “…we are working on it…” regardless of the issue in question. Meanwhile, they keep following their usual agendas, totally blind to their own programmatic promises and deaf to people’s objections.
So, it is fine for the legislature to work part-time with a full-time salary or work full-time keeping both their salaries and their car and expense allowances, while thousands of employees are fleeing the island to find a job. It is totally acceptable to brush off citizens’ demand for a single chamber and impose — who knows when — a so-called reform that will probably be as weak and ineffective as today’s legislature.
Mayors and their municipal assemblies can obscenely raise their salaries and allowances — regardless of the towns’ deficits — whilst township employees are laid off or simply not paid, suppliers’ payments are stopped for the time being and 140,000 public servants will not be paid their unused sick days.
PREPA doesn’t miss a beat in cutting residents’ power if they are a couple of days late in their payment, but the rule does not apply to government agencies, hotels and big industries who owe millions of dollars and their last payment was years ago. PRASA also interrupts service to residents’ in arrears although 60 percent of their production is simply lost. And to top it off, both agencies will be increasing their rates shortly. Anyone saying “Boo!?”
‘Transparency in the eye of the beholder’
As “El Nuevo Día’s” exposé on the finances of our legislators so specifically showed us, transparency is in the eye of the beholder. They weren’t really trying to make “trampitas,” (“white lies”) it’s all a mistake or a misunderstanding or, my favorite excuse, “I can’t remember.”
In the meantime, violence is the theme du jour, Internet and school bullying, gender and domestic violence, violence against children, drug-trade deaths and shootings everywhere: in the mall, in restaurants, food courts, homes and roads. A swarm of brutality that requires deep interdisciplinary thought, cautious and serious planning and deeper yet commitment. Not at all the response to the appalling actions of the Family Department and its secretary, still waiting for “an investigation” by the Justice Department to run its course.
Religion and moral judgment is now the purview of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, denying same-sex couples the right to marry, to adopt children, to be protected by Law 54. Equal rights for every citizen seems to have been erased from our Constitution, along with the right to privacy and intimacy.
We, the people, are not blameless. The privatization of the airport has met with protests and fierce opposition, a little bit too late; it is a done deal. But, did we ever care enough about its dire state? Yes, we complained about it, but did we demand from our government to ascertain solutions? Were there protests and strikes to compel action? No. We rather spend time in our comfort zone, brandishing uninformed opinions and playing the waiting game.
As Puerto Ricans we have a responsibility to defend the public interest, in a timely fashion. We have done it as recently as taking “La Comay” off the air. It was a very proud moment, a great example of social conscience and solidarity. We proved that we can force change if we put our minds to it. Collectively, we have the power.
We must remind our government of Lincoln’s words. We, the people, have elected them. We, the people, have put our trust and confidence and hopes in their alleged commitment to the common good. We, the people, have the might and courage to take our future in our hands, with or without their support. The new normal is simply unacceptable.